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Sunday, 12 October 2014

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Helpless JVP turns to expatriate vote

The JVP, after its poor performance at the recent Provincial Council elections have realised that its political bankruptcy would be fully exposed at the next presidential and general elections.

Hence, they have looked into the possibility of convincing the Elections Commissioner to implement a system enabling Sri Lankan expatriates to cast votes at future elections so that their vote base could be increased by even a few thousands.

The JVP’s funding base is their frontline supporters who fled the country during the 1988/89 insurgency. Most of them live in countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and a few European countries.

JVP affiliate Ethera Api organisation last week announced its plan to initiate discussions with the Elections Commissioner to implement a system enabling Sri Lankan expatriates to vote at future elections.

JVP’s Ethera Api Chairman and JVP parliamentarian Sunil Hadunnetti stated that the aim was to facilitate more than one million Sri Lankans living abroad, the opportunity to vote at future elections.

“We have already brought it to the attention of the Elections Commissioner and he seemed to bear a positive attitude about the proposal,” he said.

Hadunnetti added that they will propose a voting system that could be activated through diplomatic missions using advanced IT facilities.

“We hope to obtain a positive outcome in this venture that would enable thousands of Sri Lankans a chance to vote at elections in future,” he added.

UPFA won’t take UNP’s call lightly

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has said that the ruling UPFA would not take lightly the challenge posed by the main opposition United National Party (UNP) to have a national election next year.

The minister was responding to speculation that a snap presidential election would be held early next year.

The Economic Development Minister said the UPFA, as a political party, was prepared for a national election at any time, but did not give any time frame for the elections which are due only in 2016.

“It is a matter that has to be decided by the President and the Election Commissioner. But, we, as a party, have positioned ourselves to face an election.

We are carrying out organisational activities with such an election in mind. The UNP leadership has also challenged us to hold a national election. We do not take it lightly,” he said.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the Government not only rescued the country from the scourge of terrorism but had also raised the living standards of the people.

“Earlier, people were satisfied when access roads are gravelled. Today, they expect us not only to carpet such roads but also to demarcate lanes.

"People now have higher expectations because their living standards have risen. We have to stand up to the challenge of meeting such needs of people,” he said Land for votes?

Asian Tribune online newspaper reported that the Tamil National Alliance has come up with a proposal, ‘Lands for Votes’ in the coming presidential election and has told the messengers of Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe that if the deal is acceptable, they are prepared to support him in the presidential election.

It is a well-known fact that the TNA exploits the recent situation of more than 50,000 displaced in the Valikamam area for their continuous stay in political power in the midst of the Tamils.

The Asian Tribune said that a few Tamil Dispora group in the West have clearly told the TNA leadership not to render any support to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at any given time.

Understandably, the LTTE rump is adopting the same stance.

They have also insisted that in any event Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran should not be considered as the Common Candidate for the Presidential Election, and then they must bargain with the other candidate who comes forward to contest.

A spokesman for a Tamil Diaspora group had told the Asian Tribune chief that TNA has been told not to render support to anyone blindly, as they have done in vain to Sarath Fonseka in the last Presidential Election held in 2010.

The source told that Tamil National Alliance should enter into an agreement with the Presidential candidate from the opposition regarding the land issue which affects the IDPs and also of sending the security forces from the North.

A section of the Tamil Diaspora who met Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchchi President Mavai Senathirajah, who was in United Kingdom as well as in Germany, clearly told that rendering support must be based on getting back lands occupied by the Army and sending the armed forces outside the Northern Province.

It is learnt that this issue is to be discussed at the next TNA Leaders meeting and a draft agreement of this nature would be prepared to be given to Presidential candidates who come forward to solicit their support.

TNA says no discussions yet

But the TNA said last week that there have been no discussions yet regarding the impending Presidential Election within the alliance.

TNA spokesperson, parliamentarian Suresh Premachandra has said that the party leaders were yet to decide on the alliance’s stance if a snap presidential election is declared.

“We have not discussed it within the TNA yet. But what we will be interested is in the policies that the candidates are going to put forward.

"There are burning issues in the North and East which include the occupation of land, resettlement and resolving of the problems of Tamils.

"We will be inclined to support any candidate who will align with these causes” he was quoted as saying.However, Premachandran was non-committal on the proposal of a common opposition candidate.

“We must first and foremost comprehend if there is a chance for a common candidate and if so who the candidate is.

These are issues that we are yet to discuss,” he said.

The Northern Provincial Council, the only Provincial Council not governed by the ruling UPFA, is held by the TNA.

The TNA supported the common opposition candidate Fonseka at the last 2010 January presidential election.

But despite the support of the main Opposition UNP, along with the TNA and JVP, Fonseka cut a sorry figure and was comprehensively beaten by President Rajapaksa.

Fonny to weigh all options

Leader of Democratic Party (DP) Sarath Fonseka has said last week that he would consider contesting at the Presidential Election, but would weigh all available options.

But one wonders whether he had meant about his eligibility to contest after losing his civic rights.

Fonseka says that the UNP National Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had requested him to support the UNP in future elections.

But Fonseka has said that he may not contest the next presidential election if President Rajapaksa contests for another term. The Democratic Party will consider backing a common candidate but at the same time, Fonseka fears that would affect his party.

“If we do support a common candidate, it will definitely affect our party.

So we need to study the possible methodology to develop the party before backing a common candidate,” he said.

It is an indication that the Democratic Party would not support any common candidate.

Instead, Fonseka may come forward as the party’s presidential candidate, if he is legally cleared to contest, pending his civil rights ban.

President to distribute land deeds

More than 19,200 land deeds are to be issued among the people in Killinochchi at a ceremony to be held today, under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

According to Sri Lanka Freedom Party Organiser for Kilinochchi District Geethanjali Naguleshwaran, this is the first time that a large number of people are assured of their rights to own a piece of land, by the Government, she said.

She said that the Government is in the process of solving the land disputes of the people who are living in the Northern Province in a systematic manner with the proper coordination of District Secretariats and the Divisional Secretaries.

Meanwhile, Land Commissioner General R. P. R. Rajapaksa said a special program is in place in the Northern Province to implement the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations in terms of solving land issues of the people in the province.

He said the distribution of land deeds to over 18,000 people will take place in Kilinochchi on Sunday as part of this program.

“The Government has already settled a significant number of land disputes out of a total identified land issues amounting to over 200,000 in the Northern Province.

The land disputes of the people who were affected by the conflict in the North will receive pride of place under this program,” he said.

The Commissioner General added that the land disputes of the people living in all parts of the Northern Province will be solved gradually.

President in North

President Rajapaksa is spending the weekend in the North, commissioning several landmark development projects that usher in a new era for the province that had been devastated by the LTTE terrorists.

Apart from the Northern railway line making its first journey to Jaffna after LTTE terror and distribution of over 18,000 land deeds to the people in the North, the President will also open several other development projects.

The government will not reduce the quantity of water provided to the people in Kilinochchi from the Iranamadu tank in the future.

Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that funds will be allocated through the Kilinochchi water supply project for the renovation of the Iranamadu tank bund.

The minister said the people in the Killinochchi district have a responsibility to protect this tank which has not been renovated for 80 years. Minister Gunawardena said Kilinochchi district parliamentarian Chandrakumara Murugesu is the only people’s representative in the area who raise issues faced by the people with the government.

He inspected a water treatment plant, water tanks and pipe laying activities in progress with officials of the National Water Supply and Drainage Board and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The minister also held a discussion with the JICA, NWS and DB and project officials on the progress of the project.

President’s third term, not a major issue for UNP

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said last week that the main Opposition does not see incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa contesting for a third term at a future presidential election as a major issue.

Attanayake told a media briefing last week that the UNP does not see President Rajapaksa contesting for a third term as a problem because he could be defeated by a joint effort of all opposition parties. But Attanayake did not elaborate how the UNP is going to do that when its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is going solo.

He hinted at the possibility of fielding a common opposition candidate when he said the party had decided to have discussions with other opposition parties on working out a common agenda.

But Attanayake himself had stated earlier that the common candidate should be within the UNP as the party accounts for more than 80 percent of the Opposition votes. Though Attanayake had said that the UNP had begun discussions with other political parties, the JVP has already declared that they would not join with the main Opposition to form alliances or support Fonseka. In this backdrop, what Attanayake says are mere daydreams to keep the morale of his party supporters. Attanayake said that any common platform of joint opposition political parties should be led by the UNP because it had an 80 per cent stake.

However, the UNP General Secretary said any common platform of the joint opposition should be led by the UNP as the party has an 80 percent stake in the total number of opposition votes.

Harin bats for Sajith

The newly appointed Opposition leader of the Uva Provincial Council Harin Fernando seems to have overestimated the mandate he got at the recent elections, even trying to advocate his party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Harin has said that Ranil should name UNP’s deputy leader Sajith Premadasa as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate without delay at the forthcoming Presidential election.

Speaking at a party meeting in Kolonnawa last week, Harin said the UNP leader should name Sajith as t6he party’s Prime Ministerial candidate before the Presidential election campaign.

“We are ready to dedicate ourselves to the party if Ranil Wickremesinghe did his bit and name Premadasa as the Prime Ministerial candidate,” Harin said.

Harin added that Ranil should hand over the responsibility of campaign for the presidential election to others in the party including Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, himself and others as they could ensure success in the election. One wonders whether this is a plot against the experienced UNP leader and two-time Prime Minister.

Rajaratnam trial set for early next year

The trial against Sri Lankan-born Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam for allegedly funding Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is expected to begin as early as 2015.

India’s International Business Times quoting the law firm representing the complainants said lawyers are working on the case and are likely to disclose evidence to be used against Rajaratnam later in October.

More than 30 Sri Lankans who were victims and survivors of the LTTE attacks filed a lawsuit in October 2009 against the Wall Street billionaire Rajaratnam and his father, J. M. Rajaratnam for knowingly providing financial and other support to the Tamil Tiger terrorist group.

In a seven-count complaint filed in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey by the law firm Motley Rice LLC, family members of those killed and survivors of bombings committed by the vanquished terror group LTTE alleged that Rajaratnam and the family foundation headed by his father provided millions of dollars in funds used for terrorist attacks.

The complaint documents donations from the Rajaratnam Family Foundation to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), which is listed a front organization of the LTTE in the US, totaling well over US$ 5 million from 2001 to 2007 in addition to the US$ 3.5 million donated by Rajaratnam.

However, the case has since been kept on hold because of several factors.

Lankans in Italy commend President’s role

Sri Lankans in Italy commended President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his services to the nation, during his recent visit to Italy and the Vatican where he met a large number of Sri Lankan expatriates.

The meeting took place at Hotel Cavalieri in Rome last weekend.

The expat Lankans especially lauded the President for liberating the country from terrorism and establishing peace and stability while achieving rapid economic progress.

They also said it is now possible for them to visit their Motherland at any time without any fear.

President Rajapaksa told the Sri Lankan community of the development that had taken place in the country after he assumed the Presidency while giving special emphasis to post-conflict development.

“No one is getting killed by bombs anywhere now. Highways which were only a dream for us before, are now a reality.

"We will soon commence the construction of the Kandy and Northern highways. Even roads in rural areas are now being improved and carpeted.

"Ninety six percent of the population now has electricity. We will be able to provide power to the remaining four percent by next year,” the President said.

President Rajapaksa while elaborating on the beautification projects underway in Colombo and other cities said all shanty dwellers in Colombo will be given new houses by 2016.

“People in villages now enjoy the benefits available in the city while seeking to take the best of village environment to the city.

We are confident of the success in Sri Lanka’s journey to being the Wonder of Asia," he said.

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